SEBRING, Florida – Dempsey Del Piero Racing led the race with both of its entries, cleared more than one of endurance racing’s many obstacles and fought to the finish in its 12 Hours of Sebring team debut on Saturday, bringing the pole-winning No. 27 Tully’s Porsche 911 GT3 of Patrick Dempsey, Andy Lally and Joe Foster home in sixth place in the GTC class, just ahead of the seventh-place No. 10 Tully’s Porsche 911 GT3 of Michael Avenatti, Andrew Davis and Bob Faieta.
“The team did a great job,” said Dempsey, who drove second in the No. 27 driver rotation. “The guys worked so hard. We put them in a very difficult situation, they didn’t complain, they just did their job so beautifully and consistently that it made it possible to even finish tonight, which was great. Andy drove really well, Joe did a great job but unfortunately I made a mistake from the very first moment I got in the car.”
After Lally led the race’s opening hour convincingly from the pole, Dempsey took over only to be hit with a pair of pit-speed violations right at the start of his stint. The No. 27 fell off the lead lap at that point but is was not the end of the adversity that both Dempsey Del Piero entries would encounter during an intense 12-hour race that was slowed just four times for caution periods.
“The pit speed violations probably cost us a podium,” Dempsey said. “It is just so competitive that you can’t make a mistake, but mentally coming back from that was really good.
I didn’t make any mistakes after that, which I was really happy about. I did a double right away, stayed out and then the second stint for me was strong too. A lot to build on, our objective was to finish our first 12 Hour, which we achieved, so that goal was met, and to finish sixth here at Sebring in this series is not bad.”
The No. 10 Tully’s Porsche was on the lead lap and running in the top five as late as the race’s 10th hour only to be knocked from podium contention after the second of two hits from aggressive competitors.
The second incident forced Avenatti to the pits while running fourth and the team fell off the lead lap while a right rear tire was changed and other repairs were made.
Despite the relatively late disappointment, Avenatti – a key partner in the new Dempsey Del Piero collaboration – still left Sebring more than pleased with the team’s first outing.
“First, I am very proud of the team and the job that Joe (Foster), Lars (Giersing), Greg (Cates) and everybody else did relating to getting everything ready,” Avenatti said.
“Just the thrashing that went on over the last three or four weeks, these guys are pros and they showed it. To qualify on the pole and have both cars finish today is great.
This is going to be a tough class all year but I am excited about the season. Everybody got points today, we brought the cars home in one piece, and I think we are going to do well this year.”
Dempsey Del Piero was one of the few two-car teams in any ALMS class to lead the 12 Hour with both of its entries. Lally’s first hour lead was later matched by the No. 10 when Faieta moved to the front of the GTC field for the first time just past the race’s four-hour mark.
“I had a good run, did a double stint at the beginning, and managed to get the car up front for a while,” Faieta said. “The team just did a great job. Andrew drove great, Michael drove great. It was our first race, but also the toughest race of the year, and it was great to see everybody step up.”
Faieta was partnering the full-season duo of Avenatti and Davis in the No. 10 for Sebring while Foster, Dempsey’s longtime motorsports business partner who oversees day-to-day team operations, will join Dempsey and Lally at all endurance races this season.
“We knew going in we were not as prepared as we would like to be but we ended up getting a pretty good result,” Foster said. “We learned a lot in the process, led laps with both cars, won the pole and were competitive.
We also made some mistakes here and there, got some penalties and we even took ourselves out a little bit, courtesy of me! We are learning a lot about these cars and overall I think it is a good result.”
The No. 27 squad overcame a potentially devastating accident at the halfway point when Foster crashed coming out of Sebring’s fast final corner leading to the front straight.
Foster was uninjured and the Porsche was quickly repaired and returned to the race where Lally later took the wheel for the final stint to the finish, picking up two spots in the race’s final 90 minutes.
“The way we have to look at this is a successful debut for a team that is having its first adventure in a Porsche,” Lally said. “And when that adventure is the 12 Hours of Sebring against the competition that we had here this week, I think we measured up very well.
We had a couple of little hiccups that were actually less than what I expected throughout the race. The speed that we showed in qualifying to take a pole in our first ever attempt here was good. To lead the whole first stint was great, just a successful weekend all around.”
Next up for Dempsey Del Piero Racing and the American Le Mans Series is the annual race on the streets of Long Beach, April 19 – 20. Like Sebring, Long Beach is a unique challenge in its own right and the work and preparation begins now after a solid Sebring opener.
“I really think we showed our true potential as a team,” Davis said. “Not only in qualifying, with Andy’s awesome pole and the 27 car running off at the beginning and leading, but also with the 10 car staying in the hunt.
We soldiered through, we ran up through the field, we ran our own race and we were looking really good. I think we really showed what we can do, we just need to keep our heads down and get better.”
Dempsey Del Piero Racing